Sarjo Cham, brother of former MP Mahawa Cham, supported by ANEKED and Lead Counsel Deji Ajare, have filed a complaint before the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Court of Justice.
The complaint targets the Government of Gambia for the violations suffered by Mahawa Cham as relate to his enforced disappearance and the violations suffered by his family as a consequence of Mr. Mahawa Cham’s forced disappearance
Mahawa Cham, a former member of the National Assembly and fierce critic of the Yahya Jammeh regime was abducted alongside Saul Ndow in 2013.
Mahawa Cham was instrumental in coordinating demonstrations in Dakar, particularly following the unlawful execution of nine death-row inmates in The Gambia in August 2012 on orders of Yahya Jammeh.
Since 2013 and despite the change to the Adama Barrow government, the appeals made by Sarjo Cham, the credible evidence that has surfaced through journalists investigating and testimonies, and persons involved being identified, no judicial investigation has been conducted nor initiated by the Gambian government.
Au contraire, on 10th August 2019, following recommendations from the Minister of Justice, Abubacarr B. Tambadou, Omar A. Jallow, a member of the Junglers-a death squad operating under Yahya Jammeh- was released from custody after confessing before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to participating in the forced disappearance of Mahawa Cham.
“The Gambia recently filed against Myanmar at the ICC for the crimes against humanity committed, including extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances. The Minister of Justice, Abubacarr B. Tambadou was even quoted as saying that he wanted to ‘send a clear message to Myanmar and to the rest of the international community that the world must not stand by and do nothing in the face of terrible atrocities that are occurring around us’. We call on the government of The Gambia to act by the same standard and show the world that the country takes the human rights violations of its citizens seriously”-Sirra Ndow, ANEKED Gambia Country Representative.
The complaint marks an attempt to hold the Gambian government responsible for its failure to respect, protect and fulfil the fundamental rights of Mahawa Cham and Sarjo Cham; and to hold it accountable for the continuous denial to an effective judicial remedy, including the right to full and effective investigation and thereafter prosecution of those responsible for the disappearance and feared death of Mahawa Cham.
“Enforced disappearance is a grave crime against humanity. It hurts not only those who are disappeared but also members of their families who are constantly in doubt as to the status of their disappeared kin. Nothing short of proper justice – which answers the throbbing questions of where were their loved ones taken, what happened, why and holding those responsible to account- can bring closure for such persons. The actions and inactions of the Gambian government with regards to getting justice in cases of enforced disappearances under the Yahya Jammeh administration are not only reprehensible, morally indefensible, they are insensitive violations of Gambia’s international obligations.”- Deji Ajare, Lead Counsel, Sterling Centre for Law & Development.
The filing of the complaint was immediately followed by the filing of a petition on 6thDecember 2019 by 18 victims against the decision of the Minister of Justice, Abubacarr B. Tambadou to release the Junglers on 10thAugust 2019, following their confessions to the crimes against humanity committed on orders of Yahya Jammeh before the TRRC.